By Steven Wilson, for www.discoverweyburn.com
A water conservation bylaw is now in effect for the City of Weyburn after city council unanimously passed the measure at a meeting Monday night.
The restrictions were put in place because water levels at Nickle Lake are nearing a critical stage. Already down by more than a metre from where they would be normally at this time of year, there is a concern about where they will be without any measures. If the level falls another metre, the water level will be below the intake for the water, which would mean no water for Weyburn.
“Mother Nature, sometimes, you don’t know what’s going to happen, but everybody has to be aware, in rural and people that live in our community, and I think people are intelligent, and they know what’s going on, and they will respect it,” Councillor Dick Michel said after the meeting.
The restrictions are very similar to those in the 2016 water conservation bylaw.
Residents will not be able to water their lawns or gardens on Wednesdays or on weekends. Those who live in odd-numbered houses will be able to water on Mondays and Thursdays and those who live in even-numbered houses can water on Tuesdays and Fridays. On days watering is permitted, it is only allowed before 9 a.m. and after 7 p.m.
There will be some exemptions from the bylaw. Those who have recently seeded or sodded a new lawn can apply to the director of engineering for a permit to water outside of the restrictions.
Firefighting, street sweeping and city maintenance activities will also be exempted.
There is no language in the bylaw concerning the recreational use of water, such as small pools for children.
Matthew Warren is the interim city manager. He explained the use of water for things like paddling pools in backyards will be permitted, within reason.
“One thing that we do have to watch out for is the timespan that people are doing that,” Warren said. “So, if you do have a recreational pool, a kiddie pool, a paddling pool, in your backyard, just to fill it up, not have it filled up multiple times in a day.”
Additionally, there was nothing in the bylaw concerning businesses which rely on the use of water, such as car washes, and how they may be impacted.
According to the city, the intent of the bylaw isn’t to hamper any commercial enterprises in the city such as car washes.
While there are no restrictions included at this time, Warren added they will be monitoring the situation, and changes could be coming, as the bylaw allows further restrictions to be added or removed without the bylaw necessarily having to go back to council for a vote.
“I think for the citizens of Weyburn it’s very important that they realize water is valuable, and in some cases, it’s just not that easy to replace,” Councillor Mel Van Betuw said.
In 2016, many people took issue with the city watering green spaces while under the restrictions.
At the council meeting, it was announced the city will be reducing its watering schedule and practice for most facilities to 50 per cent of the normal amount, with some already at 100 per cent reduction. Some sports facilities will be watered at a 25 percent reduction.
The bylaw will be enforced through reports and complaints to the city’s Bylaw Enforcement officer. The fines for breaking the restrictions will be quite steep, ranging from $250 to $1000 for individuals, and $2,500 to $10,000 for businesses.
Mayor Marcel Roy is in favour of conservation and felt these measures don’t go far enough. Many councillors pointed out it was a good start and more could come in the future in terms of ensuring Weyburn has a stable water supply.
One long-term measure which was suggested was building a pipeline from Rafferty Dam to Weyburn. The drawback to the suggestion, however, is it will take a few years to complete when the situation is affecting the city right now.